By Caroline Levchuck
Resumes get a lot of attention during a job hunt. However, don't forget to give your cover letter its due. After all, employers usually review a cover letter prior to looking at your resume. If your cover letter doesn't pass muster, your resume won't ever get any attention at all.
Each time you craft a new cover letter, be sure to avoid these four flubs that can contribute to missed opportunities.
1. Gender Bender
Don't start things off on the wrong foot with a gender-specific salutation, such as "Gentlemen." In fact, it's best to completely avoid references to gender, because they can seem dated and even offend someone who is transitioning to another gender. Rather, try to find out the name of the person who will be reviewing your resume and address the cover letter to that individual. If this isn't possible, opt for "To Whom It May Concern," the most neutral of all salutations.
2. One Letter Doesn't Fit All
It's fine to create a standard cover letter during your job search, but be sure that you use extreme caution when revising the letter for different employers. Common errors include listing the wrong job title, company name, date or source of a job listing. Take the time to be sure that you've got your facts straight in each letter -- and while you're at it, spend a few more moments tailoring a unique response to each employer.
3. Size Matters
A cover letter should be just that -- a letter. Put thought into its content. While you don't want to submit a two-page tome, you do want your cover letter to consist of more than a sentence or two. Three well-written paragraphs outlining your interest in the position and qualifications are ideal. Anything shorter could communicate a lack of effort while anything longer probably won't be read.
4. Take Direction Well
Employers want to know if you take direction well -- and that appraisal begins with your cover letter. If you're asked to send your resume to a particular person, make sure you do so. Follow any format requests (PDF, Microsoft Word, text documents, etc.). Also, if an ad states that you must include your salary requirements to be considered, do so if you really want to be considered for the position. Ignoring obvious instructions at the stage of the game is an easy way to guarantee you won't be hired.
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